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The area surrounding Hot Springs National Park in central Arkansas is a must-visit spot for amazing fishing, water sports, incredible restaurants, and relaxation. Head to this region, just south and west of Little Rock, for a stunning tour through a land of shining lakes, sun-dappled forests, and natural hot springs.

You can focus your visit on the park itself, beginning in the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, learning about the history of these curative baths. You might be surprised to find out that spas arenít a modern invention after all! Since Hot Springs National Park was set aside by Congress in 1831 ñ making it the oldest park in the national park system ñ visitors have enjoyed hiking the 26 miles of trails and touring the many historic buildings. You can take your own bath in the restorative waters (at the Fordyce Bathhouse), drive the scenic roads, or stroll along the Grand Promenade. The park celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2007, so if you visit this summer, be sure to check out the many special events and activities going on.

Once youíve let the warmth of the hot springs soothe your aching muscles, youíll be ready for a trip to nearby Little Rock, capital of the ënatural state.í Youíll find fun outdoor adventures in this vibrant city like superb golf courses, walking trails, mountain climbs, tennis courts, and grassy fields for games. Take your dog for a walk in one of the many parks or head to the zoo to see some exotic animals. Wrap it all up with a trip to the Clinton Library, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center & Park, or a visit to see beautiful old neighborhoods and homes like Villa Marre.

If a fishing trip is what youíre after, then head south or west of Hot Springs National Park to stunning Lake Ouachita State Park or De Gray Resort State Park. 40,000-acre Lake Ouachita is nestled in the woods of the Ouachita National Forest, a great place for hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. With tree-topped islands dotting the water, Lake Ouachita is a scenic place to enjoy water sports like fishing, scuba diving, water-skiing, boating, and swimming. Set your fishing rod for bream, crappie, catfish, stripers and largemouth bass, or just settle back and relax on the lake's 975 miles of shoreline. This gorgeous man-made lake is known as one of the cleanest in the country.

De Gray Resort State Park is set on the northern side of De Gray Lake, a 13,800-acre paradise. The park offers excellent fishing for hybrid striped bass, and great angling for bass, crappie, bream, and catfish. Spend some time kayaking or boating around the lake, making use of the marina and boat slips. Rental boats are also available. And on land you can go golfing at the challenging 18-hole golf course, a set of links with stunning scenery. Donít forget to watch for birds and wildlife as you enjoy the views of the Ouachita Mountains.

If you have the time, be sure to plan a side trip to Arkadelphia on the Caddo and Arkadelphia rivers. You can go boating on the rivers, fishing for smallmouth bass, or see historic buildings on the homes tour, like the Captain Henderson House. This is a fantastic place to slow down, settle back, and let the quiet flow of country life put you at ease. And donít forget to sample the wares at the incredible restaurants!
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